tv Today in Washington CSPAN April 27, 2012 2:00am-6:00am EDT
called violence against women act has done in providing victim services in my state of iowa. we all recognize the harm that flows from domestic violence. it's both on the victims and also the families of victims. i have supported reauthorization of the violence against women act each time that it has come up. violence against women reauthorization on each of thesizations has been highly bipartisan. we have passed consensus bills. we have not played politics with reauthorizing the law. that's until now. this time it seems to be different. i don't know why it should be. the majority turned this issue into a partisan issue. in the judiciary committee, the
majority gave no notice that it would inject new matters into the violence against women act. when the committee held a hearing on this issue, these ideas were not discussed. their need has not been demonstrated. we do not know exactly how they will work. it was clear that committee republicans would not be able to agree to this new added material and of course, a majority refused during negotiations when we asked that they be removed. republicans will be offering a substitute amendment to the leahy bill. probably 80% to 85% of the substitute that we're offering is the same as the leahy bill. this includes whole titles of the bill. we could have again reached a near consensus bill to
reauthorize violence against women, but the majority intentionally decided not to change the bill. they didn't want it to pass with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. now the media has reported that this was a deliberate strategy of the majority. a recent political article quoted a prominent democrat senator. the article said that he -- quote -- "wants to fast track the bill to the floor, let the g.o.p. block it, then allow democrats to accuse republicans of waging a war against women, end of political quote. this is a cynical partisan game playing that americans are sick of. every town meeting, people say to me when are you going to get together, stop the partisanship?
and this is especially the case on this bill. republicans aren't even blocking the bill. we have called for the bill to be brought up. instead, the majority has taken six months to reauthorize this program that has expired last october. that says something about the priorities of the other party. for instance, last week, we wasted time on political votes. that seems to be the case in the senate most of this year. the senate can pass a bill to reauthorize violence against women by an overwhelming margin, but it seems like the other party doesn't want that to happen. when they say unfavorable things about republicans and women, they aren't being forthright. a few weeks ago, the democratic congressional campaign committee sent out a fundraising email. the email stated in part -- quote -- "now there are news reports that republicans in
congress will oppose reauthorization -- reauthorizing the violence against women act." enough is enough. the republican war on women must stop now. will you chip in three dollars by midnight tonight to hold republicans accountable for their war on women?" end of quote of that democrat missile. the majority had a decision between raising money for campaigns or trying to get violence against women act reauthorization bill that would actually help these victims. my fellow senators, there is no war on women except the political one. it's a figment of imagination of democratic strategists who don't want to remember health care reform, unemployment or high gas prices. instead of talking about those
issues, particularly high gas prices, they would rather make up a war against women. all evidence points to the other side sure being more interested in raising money. the media has also reported that the bill is coming up now because of the democrats' desire to gin up a republican so-called war on women were derailed last week, i suppose by other issues. it should be clear at the outset that republicans are not blocking, have not blocked and never threatened to block the senate's consideration of this bill. the judiciary committee only reported the bill to the senate two months ago. it was march before the committee filed the usual committee report to the entire senate. democrats immediately came to the floor and urged the bill to come up right now.
it was up to the majority leader to decide when the bill should be debated. he finally decided, not right after the bill was reported out of committee or not right after the committee report was filed but to do it now. why not back then? as long as there is a fair process for offering amendments, including our alternative bill and pointing out the flaws in the majority's bill, this should be a relatively short process. and as the previous speaker said, i hope we can get it done this very day. several other important points i want to establish. first, i hope a consensus version of women -- or violence against women will be reauthorized. if a consensus bill doesn't pass, no rights of women or anyone else will be affected if the bill does not pass because contrary to the statements made, there would be no cutbacks of
services. violence against women act, the bill before us, is an authorization bill only, not an appropriation bill. this bill does not allow the expenditure of one dime of money because that results through the appropriation process. appropriators can and will fund violence against women act programs, regardless of whether this bill is reauthorized. this is exactly what happened over the past year. we think that new issues have arisen since the last violence against women reauthorization. these issues should be addressed in a consensus reauthorization. that can happen. we should give guidance to the appropriators. that's what authorization committees like in this case the judiciary committee is all
about. i support the appropriators continuing to fund violence against women act while we're trying to put together a consensus bill. violence against women is being funded, despite the expiration of its previous authorization. no existing rights of anyone are affected if violence against women is not reauthorized. no existing rights of anyone are affected if we pass a consensus bill rather than this partisan bill. i should say the majority's bill, not the partisan bill. second, the majority controls how bills move in the senate. as i said, the current violence against women reauthorization expired six months ago. if reauthorization was so important, i would think the
majority party could have moved to reauthorize this bill months ago. they didn't move a bill because no one's substantive rights or funding are at stake. this is true even though the prior reauthorization is expired and a new reauthorization bill has not yet passed. third, nothing like the majority's bill where it does not reflect consensus will become law. it's a political exercise. the other body, meaning the house of representatives, doesn't seem like it's going to pass it the way that the majority party here wants it to pass. if we want to pass a consensus violence against women reauthorization bill, we ought to start with the alternative that senator hutchison and i are going to present to the senate. fourth, the majority's bill as reported out of committee was and is fiscally irresponsible.
according to the congressional budget office, the majority's bill would have added more than $100 million in new direct spending. that will increase the deficit by that same amount. the reason is the immigration provisions that we said previously were nonstarters. these were some of the provisions that the majority refused to take out. those provisions are bad immigration policy. nonetheless, i'm glad that the majority has now found an offset for this spending. the republican alternative does more to protect the rights of victims of domestic violence and sex crimes than does, in fact, the majority bill. there are many ways in which this substitute does that. under the substitute amendment, more money goes to victims, less
to brats. it requires that 10% of the grantees be audited every year. this is to ensure that taxpayer funds are actually being used for the purpose of the legislation to combat domestic violence. this is a very important point. the justice department inspector general conducted a review of 22 grantees under this law between 1998 and the year 2010, and of these 22 audits, 21 were found to have some form of violation of grant requirements. the violations ranged from unauthorized and unallowable expenditures to sloppy recordkeeping and failure to report in a timely manner. and when this happens, money is
not getting to the victims, and the taxpayers' money is being wasted. give some examples. in 2010, one grantee was found by the inspector general to have questionable costs for 93% of the nearly 9 hoobts they received -- 9 hoobts they received are from the justice department. a 2009 audit found nearly $500,000 of a 680 thousand dollars grant was questionable. an inspector general audit from just this year found that this law's grant recipient in the virgin islands engaged in almost $850,000 in questionable spending. a grant to an indian tribe in idaho found $250,000 in improperly spent funds. this included, can you believe
it, $171,000 in salary for an unapproved position. in michigan this year a woman at a -- at the law's grant recipient used grant funds to purchase goods and services for personal use. we should make sure, then, that violence against women money goes to victims and not to waste like this. that hasn't been the case, obviously, under the current situation. so our republican substitute deals with this spending problem. the substitute also prevents grantees from using taxpayers' funds to lobby for more taxpayer funds. that will ensure that more money is available for victim services. money that goes to grantees and is squandered helps no woman or other victims. in addition, the republican
alternative limits the amount of violence against women funds that can go to administrative fees and salaries to 7.5%. that means that money that now is over the 7.5% suggested limit is going to bureaucrats and not to victims. and, of course, the underlying bill, the leahy bill, contains no such limit. if you want the money to go to victims and not bureaucrats, those overhead expended should be capped at the 7.5% level. the republican substitute amendment requires that 30% of the stop grants and grants for arrest policies and protective orders are targeted to sexual assault. the leahy-crapo bill sets aside only 20% instead of that 30% to fight sexual assault.
the substitute that senator hutchinson and i offer hopefully this afternoon requires that training materials be approved by an outside accredited organization. this ensures that those who address domestic violence help victims based on knowledge and not ideology. this will result in a more effective assistance to victims. the leahy-crapo bill contains no such requirement. the hutchinson-grassley substitute protects due process rights that the majority bill threatance. and i'll give you an instance. the majority bill said that college campuses must provide for -- quote -- "prompt and equitable investigation and resolution" -- end of quote of charges of violence or stalking. this would -- this would have codified a proposed rule of the department of education that
would have required imposition of a civil standard or preponderance of the evidence for what is essentially a criminal charge, one that if proved, rightly should have -- rightly should harm reputation. but if established on a barely more probable than not standard reputations can be ruined unfairly and very quickly. the substitute eliminates this provision. now the majority has changed their own bill's language. i thank them for that. i take that as an implicit recognition of the injustice of the original language. the substitute also eliminates a provision that allowed the victim who could not prove such a charge to appeal if she lost, creating double jeopardy.
the majority bill also would give indian tribal courts the ability to issue protection orders and full civil jurisdiction over non-indians based on actions allegedly taking part -- or place in indian country. noting that the due process clause requires that courts exercise jurisdiction over only those persons who have minimum contact with the forum, the congressional research service has raised constitutional questions about this provision. the administration and supporters in this body pursue their policy agendas headlong without bothering to consider the constitution. the substitute contains provisions that would benefit tribal women and would not run afoul of the constitution. we have heard a lot of talk about how important the rape kit
provision in the judiciary committee bill, those provisions are. i strongly support funds to reduce the backlog of testing rape kits, but that bill provides that only 40% of the rape kit -- rape kit money actually be used to reduce the backlog. the substitute requires that 70% of the funding would go for that purpose and get rid of the backlog sooner. it requires that 1% of the debbie smith act funds be used to create a national data base to track the rape kit backlog. it also mandates that 7% of the existing debbie smith act funds be used to pay for state and local audits of the backlog. debbie smith herself has endorsed these provisions. the majority bill has no such provisions, making sure that money that is claimed to reduce the rape kit backlog actually
does so is pro-victim. true reform in the violence against women reauthorization should further that goal. combating violence against women also means tougher penalties for those who commit these terrible crimes. the hutchinson-grassley substitute creates a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence for federal conviction for forcible rape. the majority bill establishes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. that provision is only there because republicans offered it and we won that point in our committee. child pornography is an actual record of a crime scene of violence against women. our alearn tiff -- alternative establishes a one-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of child pornography where the victim depicted is under 12 years of age. i believe that the mandatory minimum for this crime should be higher in light of the lenient
sentences that many federal judges hand out, there should be a mandatory minimum sentence for all child pornography possession convictions. but the substitute is at least a start. this is especially true because the majority bill takes no action against child pornography. the alternative also imposes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime of aggravated sexual assault. this crime involves can sexual assault -- involves sexual assault through the use of drugs or otherwise rendering the victim unconscious. the leahy bill does nothing about aggravated sexual assault. the status quo appears to be fine for the people that are going to vote for the underlying bill if the hutchinson-grassley amendment is not adopted. instead, the hutchinson-grassley amendment establishes a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime
of interstate domestic violence that results in the death of the victim. it increases from 20 to 25 years the statutory maximum crime where it results in life-threatening bodily injury too or the permanent disfigurement of the victim. it increases from 10 to 15 years the maximum sentence for this crime when serious body bodily injury to the victim results. the leahy bill contains none of these important protections for domestic violence and the victims thereof. the substitute grant administrative subpoena power to the u.s. marshals service is to help them discharge their duty of tracking and apprehending unregistered sex offenders. the the -- the leahy bill does nothing to locate and apprehend unregistered sex offenders and the substitute cracks down on
abuse of award of new visas for illegal aliens and the fraud against violence against women self-petitioning process. the majority bill does not include any reforms of these benefits, despite actual evidence of fraud in the program. one of the senators who recently came to the floor complained that there had never been controversy in reauthorizing the violence against women act. but in the past, there were no deliberate efforts to create partisan divisions. we always proceeded in the past on consensus fashion. domestic violence is an important issue, serious problem. we all recognize that. in the past, we put victims ahead of politics in addressing it. when the other side says this should not be about politics and partisanship, why, heavens, we obviously agree.
it's the majority that has now decided that they want to score political points above assisting victims. they want to portray a phony war on women because this is an an election year. they're raising campaign money by trying to exploit this issue. and i demonstrated that in one of the emails that we come across -- come to our attention. there could have been a consensus bill before us today as in the past. there is controversial now because that's what the majority seems to want. we look forward to a fair debate on this bill and the chance to offer an vote on our substitute amendment. that amendment contains much that is in agreement with the leahy bill. the substitute also is much closer to what can actually be enacted into law to proarkt victims of domestic violence. m.
the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mr. franken: thank you, madam president. when my wife, fran ni, and i decided that i should run for senate, we were greatly influenced by the example set by senator paul wellstone and his wife, sheila. the wellstones' example served as a constant reminder of what public service is all about. it's about helping others. it's about giving a voice to those who otherwise might go unheard. it's about making the law more just and more fair, peurbl for those who -- especially for those who need its protections the most. frannie and i have a personal responsibility to carry on the wellstones legacy. we all do. and you know what? i think that paul and sheila would be proud of what we're doing here today. we are on the verge of reauthorizing the violence
against women act. paul and sheila were extraordinary people, an unlikely couple. sheila was born in kentucky to southern baptist parents. paul was born here in washington, the son of russian jewish immigrants. but love and fate, they work in mysterious ways, and they brought paul and sheila together. sheila's family moved to washington where she and paul became high school sweethearts. paul went to north carolina for college, and sheila went back to kentucky. but a freshman year apart was more than they could bear. sheila moved to north carolina to be with paul. they got married, a year later they were proud parents. they eventually would have two more children. the wellstones were a big, happy family. after paul earned his ph.d. in political science, the wellstones moved to minnesota where paul had a successful
teaching career at carleton college. sheila, meanwhile, worked two jobs. she was a full-time mother and a part-time library aide. a happy life in minnesota would have been enough for most people, but not for paul and sheila. their compassion knew no limits. they wanted to make the world a better place for others, and they set out to do just that. paul ran for public office. he and sheila worked as a team during paul's senate campaign, as they did in all aspects of their lives. paul's opponent outspent him by a large margin, but what paul and sheila lacked in resources, they made up for in grass roots support. a tireless work ethic and a nonparalleled commitment to the people of minnesota, also quite a bit of charm.
improbable as it must have been seemed at the outset, paul won and was elected to the united states senate in 1990. the wellstones went to washington, the city where they first fell in love. at the time sheila wasn't really a public figure, at least she didn't view herself as such. in fact, sheila was a bit shy, and she avoided public speaking when she could. but sheila started spending time at women's shelters in minnesota and elsewhere, listening to painful stories about domestic violence and assault. she realized there are a lot of women across the country who needed a voice, who needed someone to speak up for them. sheila set out to become that person. here's what she said -- and i quote -- "i have chosen to focus on domestic violence because i find it appalling that a woman's home can be the most dangerous, the most violent and tph-bgt,
the most -- in fact, the most deadly place for her. and if she is a mother, it is dangerous for her children. it's time that we tell the secret. it's time that we all come together to work toward ending the violence." unquote. sheila matched her words with actions. she became a champion for survivors of domestic violence in minnesota and throughout the country. each year she hosted an event in the capitol to raise awareness about that issue. that annual event continues to this day. and like i said, sheila and paul were a team. so sheila worked very closely with paul to champion the violence against women act, a landmark federal law that affirmed our nation's commitment to women's safety. signed into law in 1994, vawa increased the number of beds in
shelters that were available to women who needed refuge. it provided critical support to law enforcement officers and prosecutors so they could respond more effectively to incidents of domestic violence. they funded support services and crisis centers for victims. and perhaps most importantly vawa sent a message: domestic violence no longer will be tolerated in america. since vawa was enacted, incidents of domestic violence have been reduced significantly. vawa has improved lives. it has saved lives. it is part of the wellstones' proud legacy. vawa is part of this institution's legacy, too. when it comes to violence against women, members of the senate always have been able to come together.
vawa has been reauthorized twice. both times it had unanimous support in the senate -- unanimous support. the vawa reauthorization bill that we're considering today is in keeping with vawa's bipartisan tradition. its 61 sponsors come from across the country and from across the aisle, and i am grateful to senators leahy and crapo for their leadership on this bill. the vawa reauthorization act renews our national commitment to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual assault, a heinous crime that remains all-too common in america, even while domestic violence is becoming less common. the vawa reauthorization act addresses the alarming rates of violence against women in indian country, by giving tribes jurisdiction to prosecute acts of domestic violence in their communities. and vat with a reauthorization
act -- and the vawa reauthorization act cuts red tape and spending by consolidating grant programs and improving accountabilit accounty mairves. this is a good bill. i am also proud to have worked on two provisions. i will like to thank chairman leahy foirnviting me to do so and for including those provisions in the final bill. first, the vawa reauthorization bill includes the provision from the justice for survivors of sexual assault act, one of the first bills i wrote after being sworn into the senate. survivors of sexual assault never again will suffer the indignity of pain for for reining sick medical exams. vawa provides state and local governments with funding to administer these exams which also are known as rape kits and are used to collect evidence in sexual assault cases.
the problem is that under current law, grant recipients can charge the survivor for the upfront cost of administering the exam, leaving the surrifer to seek reimbursement later. too often survivors aren't reimbursed. they get lost in the maze of paperwork aor are left high and dry when funds run out. can you imagine if we required crime victims to pay for the police to gather evidence, like fingerprints or d.n.a. from a crime scene? of course not. and we shouldn't require is sick r. victims of -- and we shouldn't require victims you have sexual assault to pay for rape kits. this is common sense. i am grateful to senator charles grassley you the judiciary committee's ranking member, for his ongoing support for this bill. he was an original cosponsor when i introduced it in 2009, and when i reintroduced it last
year. survivors of sexual violence have endured enough already. they should not have to pay for rape kits. and they won't have to once this bill becomes law. the vawa reauthorization bill also includes the housing rights for victims of domestic and sexual violence act, legislation that i introduced with senators collins and mikulski last fall. this bill will help women stay in their homes when they are most vulnerable, when they need a roof over their heads the most. the link between violence and homelessness is undeniable. by one account, nearly 40% of women who have experienced domestic violence will become homeless at some point in their lives. nearly 40%. once a woman becomes homeless, she becomes even more vulnerable to physical or sexual abuse.
in my state, nearly one in three homeless women is fleeing domestic violence, and half of those women have children with them. that's not the world that sheila wellstone envisioned. nobody should have to choose between safety and shelter. while the link between violence and homelessness is undeniable, it is not unbreakable. we need shelters and transitional housing programs for women who are fleeing danger. and the vawa reauthorization bill provides continued support for those programs. but there also are things we can do to prevent women from becoming homeless in the first place. my housing rights legislation
will make it unlawful to evict from federally subsidized housing a woman just because she is a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. this bill is for every woman who has hesitated to call the plirks to enforce a protective order because she was afraid she would be evicted from her home if she did so. i am grateful to the many wonderful organizations that have worked with me on this bill. they include women's victims advocacy groups like the minnesota coalition against sexual assault and the minnesota domestic abuse project. they include tenant advocacy groups like the national low-income housing coalition. they include legal aid societies like mid-minnesota legal assistance, and they include leaders of the housing industry,
too. in fact, i recently received a letter from the national association of realtors, the institute for real estate management, and other housing industry representatives expressing their support for this bill. they wrote that they -- quote -- "believe that preserving housing for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual asawcialghts and stalking is critically important." i could not agree more. that's exactly what this bill does. madam president, sheila wellstone isn't with us today. sheila and paul and their daughter marsha were tragically taken from us too soon, but sheila's example is with us. her legacy is with us, and her
words are with us and i'd like to close with those. here's what sheila said. "we really have to look at the values that guide us. we have to work toward an ethic that respects every individual, to be physically and emotionally safe. no one, regardless of age, color, gender, background, any other factor deserves to be physically or emotionally unsa unsafe. in a justic just society, we plo act together to ensure that each individual is safe from harm. in a just society, i think we have to say this over and over and over: we are not going to tolerate the violence." madam president, the vawa reauthorization bill is another